Interview. We interviewed analyst Amir Makhoul on the Netanyahu government’s green light to the right’s new security force that will operate in the Arab areas of Israel.

Amir Makhoul: ‘Ben Gvir’s National Guard will target Palestinians in Israel’

Two Palestinians were killed Monday in Nablus during an Israeli army raid. Mohammed Al Qoutuni and Mohammed Abu Baker Al Junaidi, two fighters, were reportedly hit by sniper fire.

Al Junaidi had been one of the founders of the Lion’s Den armed group. Meanwhile, the family of Mohammed Al Osaibi, a 26-year-old from Hura (Negev), fresh out of medical school in Germany, who was killed a few days ago by police in Jerusalem’s Old City, continues to denounce his murder.

The Israeli police claim that Al Osaibi’s DNA was found on an officer’s machine gun, supposedly proving his intention to seize a policeman’s weapon. However, strangely, there is no footage of the incident, even though it took place in the Old City, a place that is under constant surveillance.

Palestinians in Israel have been denouncing the increase in police violence for some time, and are looking on in fear as the Netanyahu government on Sunday approved the establishment of the National Guard demanded by Security Minister and far-right political leader Itamar Ben Gvir. We spoke about these events with Amir Makhoul, a journalist and analyst based in Haifa.

What concerns you the most about the establishment of the National Guard in the coming months?

We are concerned for a number of reasons; however, I would like to stress that the problems didn’t start with Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and will not end if and when Ben Gvir is no longer in the position he now holds in the government. The National Guard is going to be a huge problem for us, but the central issue is the relationship between the State of Israel and its non-Jewish minority, which, I would like to stress, accounts for more than 20 percent of the country’s population. The discrimination we face is obvious, and as of 2018 it has been entrenched in a Constitution that proclaims Israel as a state that belongs only to the Jewish nation. Moreover, in the past we were subjected to harsh military rule (1948-66) despite being citizens. And now we will have the National Guard on our backs, answering only to Itamar Ben Gvir, who is the most extremist of the current ministers.

Ben Gvir said it explicitly: the National Guard will operate predominantly in Israel’s Arab communities.

There is no doubt about the minister’s intentions. The National Guard, he says, will fight “nationalistic crimes,” which in local parlance means Palestinian political activities. Ben Gvir talks about terrorism and crime, but his National Guard will target Palestinians in Israel whenever they will try to express their views, their identity. And (Ben Gvir) will have freedom to do what he pleases. The fact that Netanyahu, in order to shore up the right-wing majority (shaken by the protests against his judicial reform, n.ed.), agreed to establish this militia demanded by Ben Gvir tells us that the Security Minister is in control of the government.

They’re saying this new National Guard will be active especially in the Negev desert, where numerous Bedouin communities not recognized by the state refuse to be relocated to townships.

Probably. For Bedouin and Arab communities more generally, the National Guard will join the ranks of the dangerous informal groups that are already there. For example, activists from Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power, the party led by Ben Gvir) and other far-right militants already operate as vigilantes in the Negev, Bat Yam, Jaffa, Lod and in the mixed settlements where Jewish and Arab Israelis live together. It is possible that these extremists will be absorbed by the new security force. We know by now how the police and the Shin Bet (internal intelligence) operate; but we’ll probably find out how the National Guard will operate the hard way. Even worse, there’s a possibility that the Army might also be deployed in Arab villages in the future. The right has been demanding this for years, especially since 2021, since the events of Sheikh Jarrah (when the threat of eviction of 28 Palestinian families from that East Jerusalem neighborhood triggered violent clashes between Jews and Arabs across Israel, n. ed.). Let us not forget that massacres took place whenever this happened in the past, such as in Kufr Qassem (October 1956).

Do you fear that the National Guard might forbid the Palestinian commemorations of Nakba Day (May 15) and Land Day (March 30)?

This is already happening, in quite a few cases, even without the militia that Itamar Ben Gvir got for himself. At this point it’s already considered a serious crime to fly the Palestinian flag and the police are intervening to stop it. One can only imagine what will happen when the National Guard will be there. We fear that we won’t have sufficient protection against abuse and violence from those who will see us not as citizens, but as enemies to be fought by any means. Forced removals and evictions might become an everyday occurrence.

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